Anti-Gun Blogger Attacks The Seven Myths of Gun Control
by Richard Poe
Thursday, August 28, 2003
8:01 am Eastern Time
My goodness! The gun-ban crowd works fast. Crown Random House released my book The Seven Myths of Gun Control in paperback only two days ago, and already anti-gun bloggers are hard at work probing its defenses.
This morning, I awoke to find the following message posted in my blog comments by one Tim Lambert. He writes:
“Unfortunately, John Lott has misled you about the media coverage of the murders. Details are here.”
Lambert is referring to the opening sequence of my book, which describes the grisly August 23, 2000 “Pitchfork Murders” in Merced, California. This incident became a cause célÃ¨bre in the gun rights community, because two children died, probably needlessly, as a direct result of California’s “safe storage” laws.
In obedience to the law, the father had put his gun away, unloaded and out of reach. Consequently, neither the fourteen-year-old daughter who was baby-sitting nor any of her four siblings could reach the gun to shoot the pitchfork-wielding madman who had invaded their house.
Man with a Mission
Lott is the author of The Bias Against Guns and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. The gun-ban crowd has never forgiven Lott for proving with hard statistics that the more guns owned and carried by honest citizens, the lower the rate of violent crime. Lott has suffered a withering barrage of personal and professional attacks ever since publishing his research.
Mr. Lambert is a man with a mission. He makes no bones about his goal. Lambert quotes fellow blogger Kevin Drum approvingly on this point, as follows:
“The Bellesiles defenders [Drum is referring to defenders of former Emory University history professor Michael Bellesiles] eventually faced up to the mountain of evidence against him [Bellesiles] and admitted that his [anti-gun] book [Arming America] was bogus. When will the gun partisans finally do the same with Lott?” (Kevin Drum)
What the hoplophobes seem to want is a trade — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a scalp for a scalp. Bellesiles got his. Now it’s Lott’s turn on the chopping block. That at least appears to be the gun-grabbers’ plan.
Michael Bellesiles resigned in disgrace amid charges that he had fabricated evidence for his anti-gun polemic Arming America. In his book, Bellesiles tried to prove that America’s gun culture was a modern-day myth cooked up by rightwing gun nuts. He argued that old-time frontiersmen in the days of Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone generally didn’t like guns, didn’t own them, and didn’t have much use for them.
Ever since Bellesiles went down in flames, the gun-ban crowd has been seeking vengeance. They wish to even the score by finding a blood sacrifice — what Slate‘s Timothy Noah aptly called a “Bellesiles of the Right.” John Lott appears to have been selected for the honor.
Blogger Tim Lambert is on the frontlines of the anti-Lott crusade. In addition to his duties teaching computer graphics and computational geometry at the University of New South Wales, Mr. Lambert finds time to maintain a busy blog site whose entire purpose appears to be attacking John Lott.
Where’s the Beef?
Well, Mr. Lambert, all I can say is that I read all five of your blog entries on the Merced murders and failed to discover any point where any alleged error or misstatement on Lott’s part “misled” me in any way.
Here is what I wrote in The Seven Myths of Gun Control:
“Lott says that an early account of the bloodbath distributed by one news service mentioned that guns were in the house, that the children were trained and ready to use them, and that the guns had been put out of reach, in order to comply with the law. But subsequent accounts failed to include this information.” (p. 7)
After hearing Lott make this accusation on the Sean Hannity radio show, I contacted him to seek further clarification. Lott informed me in an e-mail of October 26, 2000 that the original account to which he referred had been published in the Fresno Bee.
And indeed, the Bee ran a story on August 26, 2000 — three days after the murders — in which reporter Kimi Yoshino focused strongly on the gun issue. The story was headlined, “No Easy Answers: Gun Advocates Say Fear of Liability Keeps Parents from Teaching Survival Skills.”
Other reports of the Merced Pitchfork Murders on the national news wires pointedly avoided the gun issue. I say “pointedly” because relatives of the slain Carpenter children spoke vehemently and persistently against California gun laws to anyone who would listen. Virtually all mainstream media ignored the family’s impassioned statements and skirted the gun issue entirely.
As noted in my book, my Nexis search found only two news stories that addressed the gun issue — both local stories in the Fresno Bee.
Who is Misleading Whom?
Lott’s statements on the Hannity radio show alerted me to the Merced murders and to the media cover-up. I reported his statements as I heard them. However, I did not assume that Lott’s statements were true, nor did I rely on them in assessing the media coverage.
I did my own homework.
As you can see from reading the account of the murders excerpted on my Web site, Mr. Lambert, I formed my judgment on the media coverup after performing a Nexis search. In addition, I questioned two Fresno Bee reporters who had been involved in the murder coverage.
Mr. Lambert, you did not criticize my account of the murder itself, but let me add, for the record, that I did not rely on John Lott for any of those details either. Some came from wire reports, but most came from direct interviews with members of the victims’ families.
Because I interviewed family members directly and at length, both by phone and e-mail, I am convinced that my account is not only accurate, but perhaps the most accurate and complete narrative of these ghastly events that has yet appeared.
Mr. Lambert, I would urge you, in future, to be more careful in critiquing the work of journalists. When a journalist gets his facts right, you should not accuse him of getting his facts wrong. You should be especially wary of making such charges on the Internet, where they can mislead many people — the very offense which your entire blog site is dedicated to pinning on John Lott.
UPDATE 9.5.03: Tim Lambert responds.